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Sun elevates supercomputing push

The company expands its supercomputing activities, naming a new executive to consolidate an effort that currently spans the entire company.

Sun Microsystems is expanding its supercomputing push, naming a new executive to consolidate an effort that currently spans the entire company.

Shahin Khan, who has been Sun's chief competitive officer, now is the vice president charged with bringing high-performance and technical computing products under one umbrella. Khan started the new role about two weeks ago, he said in an interview Wednesday.

"It's a market that is a leading indicator of where computing as a whole will go--64-bit computing, the Web itself, grid computing all came out of high-performance technical computing," Khan said. "That's not a bad place to be."

Supercomputing hasn't been Sun's forte, but the Santa Clara, Calif.-based server seller is joining rivals IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer in trying to adapt its general-purpose servers to supercomputer tasks.

Khan will report to Clark Masters, executive vice president of Sun's enterprise system products, but he'll oversee products from many of the company's divisions.

The Sun Fire Link technology that wires together high-end servers with high-speed fiber-optic links comes from Masters' enterprise group. The six-processor v880z system introduced two weeks ago for creating complex graphics quickly comes from Sun's volume systems products group.

The Grid Engine software for sharing calculation jobs across a multitude of smaller computers comes from Sun's software group. And its UltraSparc V processor coming in 2005 with features specifically geared for technical computing work is from Sun's microprocessor group.

The company will have a replacement chief competitive officer by the end of June and likely sooner, Khan said.

Khan said Sun over the years has acquired good supercomputing intellectual property, along with several employees from parallel computing pioneer Thinking Machines. The high-performance SAM-FS and QFS file systems came from LSC Software, an offshoot of supercomputer specialist Cray and a company Sun acquired in 2001.

And the 64-processor E10000 server, which helped catapult Sun into the top tier of server manufacturers, originally was designed by Cray. Khan himself joined Sun through acquisition of the the E10000 assets.